By Not Charging For Seat Assignments, Southwest Airlines Makes More Money [Roundup]

News and notes from around the interweb:

  • When you don’t pay Spirit Airlines enough in fees, Spirit Airlines take the fees from you(r checked luggage) (HT: O.N.)

  • Just Saturday service but American Airlines adds to new international destinations from Austin, interestingly Cozumel comes as Southwest is launching the route as well.

  • People rush onto Southwest planes in order to get their preferred seats. They line up at the gate early in relatively orderly fashion. That lets the airline turn planes more quickly, which is a huge efficiency gain. And lack of assigned seats in advance is great for business travelers because elites and full fare passengers still have priority access to the best seats even when booking or changing flights at the last minute (while on other airlines these seats are usually already taken).

    Southwest also earns money selling earlier boarding, the way some airlines earn money selling seat assignments. Yet Southwest could reconsider its open seating policy under its incoming CEO.

    Could we one day need to take back up the assigned-seating question? I think we may have to do that,” Jordan said, per Travel Weekly, adding the airline would look at the impact of seat assignments on things like turnaround time and how important it is to business travelers. “Just know this. We are committed to continuing to look at our product, making sure it’s relevant.

  • Lufthansa seems close to taking a 40% stake in the ‘new Alitalia’ which of course is always a good investment…

  • Man arrested for stealing $1 million from the Panama City airport that was headed to the U.S. to be destroyed. He may have just been an advocate of quantitative easing in the face of Fed tightening, or attempting to defend the U.S. dollar’s seigniorage?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not charging for bags certainly brings in customers. It’s refreshing that at least one airline isn’t trying to gouge everything it can out of its customers. (Compare that with Sun Country.) I’ll use them as much as possible.

  2. Based on the fares I’ve seen on Southwest, they already charge a very significant revenue premium on the vast majority of routes.

    I can’t believe they’d consider anything that might even slightly risk their current cash cow. Based on my experience traveling with them, they’d be far better off investing properly in their IT systems to better support scheduling/IRROPS/reaccommodation/etc.

    The fact that boarding is something the incoming CEO is talking about suggests that he fundamentally doesn’t understand the real risks the airline faces daily. Their operational meltdowns have been far more damaging than the herding — err, boarding process.

  3. If they did allow assigned seats I’d be a customer
    I’ll do an hour flight at best with them nothing more at present
    Willing to pay for it
    I avoid flying them only because of the boarding process and no ability to charge my devices
    Not into a flying bus that’s one step from being out of control

  4. I used to fly Southwest regularly for my personal and family trips, and it was the best option when I worked for the government – all because they truly were the lowest cost provider. (And any FF miles were seized by the government – no keeping them for personal use.) Not anymore, but people still insist it is. They just remember the good old days. They like “free” bags, but don’t realize by picking one legacy carrier (Delta, United, American) and carrying their credit card, they get free bags too, although only one, not two. And the airfare is often significantly lower on the legacy carriers over Southwest.

    The one advantage Southwest has from my city is they’re the biggest carrier – and offer a lot more nonstops to small cities across Flyover Country. The one guy I know who’s a loyal Southwest flyer on a business account is a high-up road warrior who flies to a lot of those cities – it saves significant amounts of his billable time not having to connect in Dallas, Chicago, or Atlanta. There’s a premium to pay for that, but he’s not paying it, and it makes sense as far as a use of his time. Now that legacy carriers have eliminated change fees, your average casual flier really should look away from Southwest, at least to compare prices.

  5. The simple reason why Southwest has to consider seat assignments now is because they are connecting more and more passengers just like the legacy airlines. When you arrive on a connecting flight and half of the flight is already boarded, it doesn’t matter how much you paid or what status you have if you end up being stuck in the middle seat. Southwest is losing high-value passengers on their connecting flights who want to have the same assurance of a decent seat on Southwest as they get on the legacy airlines.

  6. With Southwest, it does not have to be an either / or thing. It can have reserved seats for Business Select and open seating for everyone else (including the army of pre-boards). And, those reserved seats would be *real* domestic premium seats. Is this too difficult?

  7. PS With Business Select, one is typically paying the same as domestic first on the legacy carriers. For me, punt. Speaking of “punt,” did anyone see the blocked punt / touchdown in the Packers – 49ers game on Saturday. Exciting stuff. Ha.

  8. the last 2 years i have still completed north of 70 flights. The vast majority on SWA, it is an easy pick boarding process is simple and the seating size is vastly superior to AA and Delta in the sardine configuration. the only way to get a bigger seat on AA is first class. now that SWA includes everyone on the same booking on my status life has been great, no more trying to save a seat. Maybe I am just lucky but there FA’s still remain nicer than the stormtroopers employed by the legacy carriers.

  9. This post’s headline promises an explanation that the text doesn’t deliver.

    I have seen no evidence that early boarding revenue exceeds assigned seating revenue, and I would presume the opposite is true.

  10. I hope they change to assigned seating. Too many people save seats for their friends that can’t board early forcing those that pay extra to sit in the back anyways.

  11. NSX, Gary is likely referring to the A1-A15 being the primary benefit of Business Select. In that sense, SW is selling boarding priority. An implicit rather than explicit argument.

  12. I won’t fly Southwest unless they have assigned seating. It’s just too stressful; can’t risk stomach ulcers over the chance of a C boarding group and middle seat.

  13. Those here whining about being unable to pay for and get assigned seating on Southwest are just cry babies with too much money and not enough fiscal sense. I am glad they boycott Southwest, just one less complainer to deal with when flying.

  14. “People rush onto Southwest planes in order to get their preferred seats.” I fly SWA, and I’ve never seen this happen. People stand in their assigned group and then board one at a time. There are no gate lice.

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